WOW'd by Inspiration: Carnival Inspiration Cruise Review by CruiznWithHubby
Overall Member Rating
WOW'd by Inspiration
Destination: Western Caribbean
OK,,,I'll say it,,,DH is CHEAP. Wonderful man, mind you,,,,,,please don't think otherwise,,,,,but cheap, nonetheless,,,,one major joke in our family is that when the costs start adding up, we say that DH is "chinging",,,you can see it in his eyes,,,they More glaze over,,,his mouth works but no sound comes out,,,whether we can AFFORD it or not, is simply not the issue,,we could have 10 times the amount of the expenditure in the bank, it matters not,,as the costs rise, so does DH's blood pressure.
Anyway,,,We live outside of Tampa, so the obvious answer to keep costs down was to sail out of Tampa,,As an ex-travel agent, i knew Carnival was our line,,,we didn't want to buy completely new wardrobes, or be out of our element,,,DH is a hard worker and a good provider, but we are working class people,,,,this gave us the choice of the inspiration or the Legend. I, of course, remembering our absolute RAPTURE with our 3 night cruise on Dolphin, wanted to book the 7 day Legend, in a balcony cabin,,,as a special treat to celebrate our anniversary. DH started chinging as soon as I started pricing,,,, without even LOOKING at the prices,,,eyeroll,,,
To avoid a second heart attack for DH, I surrendered to the 5 night Inspiration, outside cabin, with no balcony,,,some things aren't worth fighting for. It was STILL 5 nights without children, and one has to be thankful for small miracles. And it WAS a small miracle that DH surrendered to 2 extra nights AND an outside cabin,,,,compromise,,,no wonder we've managed to stay married for 25 years. So we booked and paid for our 'second honeymoon' which we hoped would be better than our first (If one can rate Niagara Falls, it would have received an F),,,
Two weeks before sailing, I managed a 40.00 OBC, which thrilled DH and caused him to call me 'savvy' to his mother on the phone,,,,so thanks to my CC friends for THAT little reminder to keep checking prices and call my PVP when the rates went down,,,,,
So now with some background,,on to the review of our INCREDIBLE cruise on Inspiration!!!!! EMBARKATION: NOT fast,,,,,,but relatively easy,,,,we arrived at the Port of Tampa at about 11:30,,,and promptly waited in line for 1 hour and 30 minutes,,,,All Carnival staff was pleasant, and informative, and the wait went quicker because of their chattering with us, and when we got to the front of the line, we were told that their computers were down, the wait was usually much less, but the agents were having to add everything in by hand, rather than simply scan everything,,,If you ask me, dealing with the literally HUNDREDS of people trying to board that ship WITHOUT computers, it is an incredible feat that they managed to keep the wait down to that short of a time,,,I have waited for Space Mountain longer. The Agents deserve a big pat on the back for that one!!
Now comes my first surprise,,,,DH hands the credit card to me and says "Have her authorize 600.00 on it, instead of 400." After I got over the shock of it, I smiled and simply said 'we won't need it,,,,and if we do, we can put more on later." DH looked at me in askance and said "Do you know how much things COST on vacation? Food, drinks, entertainment,,,," I smiled at him and reminded him that we had paid for our excursions weeks before (Great budgeting option, Carnival!!!), and our food was included, as was most of our entertainment,,,,,and we had cash for shopping in Mexico.
Literally 10 minutes later, we were eating on the lido deck, listening to some fabulous cruise music, and I had a DOD in my hands,,and twenty minutes later, we found our cabin AND our luggage (amazing). Our cabin steward, Sushi, found us and introduced himself,,,,we tipped him for ice, and thereafter, we had it daily. He was beyond fantastic! he ALWAYS remembered our names, and our cabin was cleaned TWICE a day to perfection, with towel animals EVERY day. Our cabin was large compared to other lines, with plenty of closet space,,,drawer space was a bit limited, with 4 wide but shallow "desk type" drawers,,,but with 4 or 5 very large deep shelves in one of the three closets, it was more than adequate. The cabin itself was airy and bright, the bathrooms clean and in great shape.
We went back up on deck to watch the ship pass under the Skyway Bridge,,,,,,which is beautiful beyond measure, and thanks to y'all, I knew to be on the topmost deck as she went under just as the sun was setting on Tampa Bay,,,gorgeous,,,,,The only thing I could add would be to be on the topmost FORWARD deck,,,we were on the funnel deck, and we didn't have as clear a view of the bridge,,,,but it was STILL something I wouldn't miss!!! OTOH, the photos I have from the funnel deck, showing the lights and lido deck in the foreground are magnificent,,,so maybe it was worth it!
We had the 8:15 dinner as requested, and our servers, James and Yoga were fantastic,,,,more on the dining room later. The rest of the day we walked around, went to bars, shows etc, and got to know this beautiful ship!!! And she IS absolutely beautiful,,,,
SECOND DAY (Day at Sea): Now comes my second shocker,,,,DH and I had been a bit worried that we would be bored on the Sea Days (2 on this cruise),,,our first cruise had not involved any days at sea. We were in for the shock of our lives,,,,,,we LOVED the Days at Sea. We slept late, had coffee and pastries delivered to our room, had a leisurely breakfast in the dining room (eggs benedict,,,yum!!!) and wandered the ship a bit,,,basically went in circles,,,,I think we were a bit "out of place",,,not knowing quite what to do at first,,,,thinking we had to keep busy,,,we are both busy people, not used to simply relaxing, and it took a few hours for us to figure out that all we WANTED to do was lay by the pool, drink a few DOD's and listen to the fabulous entertainment on the Lido,,,,once we figured that out, we changed to bathing suits and made our way up there,,,,Here's another shocker,,,I was a bit worried about chairs on the Lido,,,,many reviews I had read about this ship (which has only one pool) seemed to imply that FINDING seating would be an issue,,,,,here we were, over 2000 people on board,,,the ship was COMPLETELY FULL, on a sea day, and we had NO PROBLEMS finding somewhere to sit,,,Certainly if you wanted a deck chair RIGHT NEXT TO the pool, you have to get there early,,,,,but if you're willing to go a bit further afield, you will have no problems,,,,DH and I climbed up to the deck that overlooks the pool area, and had a fantastic view, could hear the music perfectly, and in OUR opinion at least, it was NICER,,,,less noise, but still close to the activities,,,we could see and hear everything,,,,and it was a very short walk down to the pool for a dip when we got hot. The pool was crowded. A second pool would have been nice, I think,,,,but it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, frankly. I would say there were many people IN the pool, but they were NOT on top of eachother,,, We were planning to go down to the restaurant for lunch,,,,but were enjoying ourselves so much that we simply grabbed buffet food,,,i read in the sun and took short dips in the pool all day,,,,absolutely AWESOME.
That night was the Night of Elegance, which was absolutely LOVELY,,,and so nice that it had been the Sea Day, because we didn't have to rush. About 5pm we made our way back to our cabin, took showers, I did my hair and watched the election results (which were STILL uncertain!!!) before making our way (slowly, due to the photographers) down to the restaurant,,,,i had the lobster and shrimp, which although small, was SUPERB. Really excellent quality,,,,it was just a very special night.
THIRD DAY (Grand Cayman): We awoke early that day to the coffee and pastries we had ordered, and checked the weather out the window of our stateroom,,,,,,,UTOH,,,it didn't look good. But we HAD managed to drop anchor, and the tenders were set to depart, and we counted ourselves lucky after hearing on this board that Grand Cayman is often cancelled,,,so we made our way to the Lido, grabbed an excellent breakfast, and then made our way to the Paris Lounge to meet the rest of our group going to Sea Grape Beach. Ours was one of the first groups off, and we were met quickly by a member of 'the Tour Group' (Yes, that's their name) that Carnival had arranged our tour with. They gathered us all together, and told us that the weather was uncertain (it was grey and overcast, but not yet raining) and offered anyone that wanted to cancel now a full refund,,,,,,stupendously professional, IMO. DH and I, however, decided to go for it!!! They assured us that Captain Jack's had a sheltered area in case it rained, and they would send back busses early if it did rain, so no worries. We enjoyed two hours on the beach before it rained, and we did indeed find shelters when the rain began, and The Tour Group did indeed send the busses back early,,,,,so we consider it was an excellent day, considering the uncertainty that can be Grand Cayman. It rained the rest of the day, so we simply wandered the ship, sat by the bar on deck under the overhangs, gambled in the casino, and went to dinner and shows. I checked my email,,,,and received an email from my DD saying we should be in the Avant Garde lounge at 10pm on Friday to meet with Risa Barnes, cruise director,,,,,,Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm,,,,Katie had NEVER been on a Carnival cruise, much less this ship,,,,how would she know the Avant Garde OR Risa Barnes?? Curiouser and curiouser,,,,
FOURTH DAY (Cozumel); ABSOLUTELY STUPENDOUS day!!!!! DH and I knew, when booking this vacation, that we wanted a relaxing, tropical vacation,,,,knowing DH works for so many hours, and knowing i had had a previously herneated disc three weeks prior to the trip, fortunately healed, but which I didn't want to aggrivated, we decided to forgo our original plans to go to the ruins at Tulum (hey an excuse to go back someday, right???) So we planned instead, a day at the Playa Mia beach break, deluxe, which included our transfers, all buffet food and unlimited alcoholic beverages at the three open bars (yes, they use filtered water, and no it wasn't a problem),,,,we swung in hammocks rigged in the shade, swam in the crystal clear waters, tried new drinks we had never tried before, and ate buffet food,,,,,,,the buffet left something to be desired, but it was edible,,,,,,,but the rest of the day was simply STUPENDOUS,,,I can not say enough about this tour!!! We shopped in Cozumel before and after the tour, buying those little gifts for the children, T-shirts, a Mexican doll for my DGD, and a gorgeous shell for my DD( katie) who collects them. I heard later you can not bring Conch shells into the country, but I did declare it on the customs form, and nobody said anything, so I'm not sure what's up there. The weather was amazing, and we were sorry to say goodbye to Cozumel,,,,,,,but we still had dinner, entertainment that night, and another Sea Day to look forward to,,,
Except we were exhausted,,,we just simply could NOT make ourselves go down to dinner,,,,or even up to the buffet,,,,,,but NO WORRIES,,,,Carnival offers room service,,,,so we ordered sandwiches and cheesecake at 6:30 and told our steward , Sushi, he didn't need to bother with turn down service that night,,,put out our do not disturb sign,,,,,,,and went to bed early,,,,OK, so we're boring,,,but it was an incredible treat (not to mention very romantic) for us to have dinner in bed together!!!!
FIFTH DAY: (Day at Sea),,,which turned into quite the SURPRISE day,,,,but before that, we enjoyed yet another day (this time with no confusion as to what we wanted to do!!!) of relaxing on deck, swimming in the pool, drinking drinks,,,,,MONKEY HEAD FOR ME!!! and watching the very funny entertainment between the red team and the blue team,,,our team lost!!! Dinner again in the diningroom, with dancing and singing waiters,,,,,,,and then off to the Avant Garde for our surprise,,,,,which was incredible,,,I am still stunned at the lengths this cruise line went to to make our WHOLE CRUISE, and my daughter's dream, a reality,,,,unbelievable,,,,Apparently, our oldest DD wanted us to dance to the Alan Jackson song "Remember When",,but she couldn't figure out how to make it happen,,,so she got ahold of a host on CC, who got ahold of someone who got a hold of Risa Barnes, who MADE it happen, even going to great lengths to FIND the song,,,we received a chilled bottle of delicious champagne, a romantic dance to my favorite song, and at disembarkation, our names were flagged, and we received a beautiful picture in a portfolio, AND a disc of the pictures taken, ELEVEN in total,,,,,unbelievable,,,I am still stunned. I sat through the entire Fiesta Latina show and the R rated comedy show with a silly stunned look on my face,,,,
DISEMBARKATION: At 6:45, we had to be at the Avant Garde again, to declare that we had purchased more than 1 litre each of rum,,,and to pay our tax on it,,,it went quickly and smoothly, and the very nice customs man waived our extra two litres,,,,how nice,,,Due to some German citizen who thought he didn't have to go through immigration because he had VIP status, regardless of the number of times his name was called over the loudspeaker, we were late having the ship cleared,,,,but it was certainly relaxing sitting on deck eating the buffet for breakfast,,,,
And because SOMETHING has to happen to me on ANY vacation,,,,,of course it did,,,we were off the ship quickly and smoothly, received our lovely gift of the photograph and CD from Carnival, and off to zone 25 for our luggage,,,,
Except one of our bags was missing,,,,,It was clear, after searching and searching, that it was simply GONE,,,,we were the last ones there, all luggage cleared out,,,,with our 2 NON-missing bags at our feet,,,,,,,,,and one lone, blue NOT OURS bag remaining,,,,,someone had taken the WRONG bag,,,and left THEIRS by mistake,,,Port Authorities were extremely helpful, helped us fill out a report, and promised to call the owner of the bag,,,we certainly didn't know how anyone could make that mistake, as Carnival had been VERY clear about checking name tags on the bags, as many bags look alike,,,,,and OUR missing bag wasn't even the same size and COLOR as the one remaining,,,,,but obviously it DID happen,,,but it certainly wasn't Carnival's fault,,,or even the Port Authority's fault,,,,,,things happen.
Even with all that,,,,,and even being literally the LAST out of the port,,,,we were STILL in the car by 10:30,,,I call that FANTASTIC!!!!
We were home in 30 minutes, as we live just outside of Tampa,,,,,and by 12 noon, we received a call from a woman with a church group that had been on the cruise,,,,she asked if we were missing a bag, and said she had it, and called our number on the bag,,,,And she assumed we had the bag belonging to one of HER group,,,I explained that we did NOT have it, the Port Authority did,,,and she seemed irritated,,,Apparently someone OTHER than the actual owner of the bag claimed it using the NUMBER on the bag to match,,,,not realizing that it was a ZONE number, not a bag number, and there were literally DOZENS of bags with the number 25 on the tag,,,,,,oy vey,,,and they cruise OFTEN,,,,,that's the scary part,,,,
So back in the car for the two hour trip to Ocala (4 hours round trip, as they certainly weren't interested in meeting us half way), thankful that at least the church group had NOTICED it BEFORE it was on a plane to Indiana,,,,the woman had told me there would be someone at the church or the parsonage next door at all times,,,,,,,,we got there about 2:30,,,,,and no one,,,,we waited nearly an hour, and still no one returned,,,,sigh. Finally, we had to leave to find a restroom, but left a note on the door of the parsonage next door that we would be back,,,,and fortunately, the minister had returned and had our bag. he was quick to point out that OBVIOUSLY Carnival had made the mistake by giving us BOTH the same number,,,,,until we showed him that MANY people had that same number as it was a ZONE number and not a BAG number,,,,We certainly didn't want Carnival slurred on this one,,,,,,it simply wasn't their fault,,,,,and if this group cruises OFTEN (which he said they do), we certainly didn't want this happening to anyone else,,,,,Frankly, with the size of this group, it is an absolute MIRACLE that only our bag was affected,,,,,and at least we LIVE in Florida and had the option of driving to the bag. Better it happen to us, than someone transferring directly to the airport!!!! Hopefully, we set them straight, and this won't happen again. I will now address some aspects of the cruise that I found helpful when reading reviews,,,,
FOOD: Very good to Excellent,,,,,,,I won't kid and say it is 5 star restaurant, gourmet food,,,,it's not,,,,but neither did I find food swimming in grease, over or undercooked, or of poor quality,,,,some was better than others, but NONE was bad,,,,,,,and obviously the restaurant was better than the buffet,,,that is simply the nature of a buffet,,,,the plus to the buffet is not having to leave the Lido deck, being able to go back easily for more, and having a variety to choose from,,,,,we sampled the buffet on the Lido, the buffet in the Brasserie and the pizza and sandwich stations,,,,,,all were very very good,,,,closer to excellent in quality,,,,It is simply not fair to judge a buffet by the standards of a gourmet restaurant,,,,it's an impossible comparison.
There were lines,,,,,but NOT nearly as long as I would have expected,,,,EVEN on sea days with a VERY full ship,,,the lines moved quickly, and within 10 minutes at MOST, we had our food,,,, I simply don't understand the complaints in this department,,,,,at busy times, BOTH sides of the buffet were open,,,we were HIGHLY satisfied.
Food in the diningroom was, of course, a step above food at the buffet,,,,,it was simply delicious,,,,again, they are cooking for 2000 people, so not 5 star quality,,,,but certainly FANTASTIC,,,,my favorites were the lobster, the short ribs, the baby back ribs (OMG do try those!!!), the best onion rings on the planet, room service chocolate cake, room service roast beef with brie on a french baguette (get two if you're hungry, it's a small sandwich), the chocolate melting cake, and the tiramisu.
Portion sizes in the Dining Room were (for the most part) a bit smaller than you will find in a restaurant,,,,,which is a PLUS in my mind,,,on a cruise you eat 17 times a day, for goodness sake,,,you are simply not as hungry at meal time as a general rule, and if you ARE hungry, they will HAPPILY (dare I say EAGERLY???) give you more!!! Do not complain about the size of your piece of cake, when they will happily give you the whole CAKE if you ask for it!!!!!
SERVICE: Phenomenal,,,,we tipped our room steward, and our dinner servers extra, above and beyond, the service was so Phenomenal. Dinner was fun, it was brought quickly, we were not rushed, and it was hot (or cold if appropriate) on delivery,,,,we had a blast at dinner every night we went, which was all but one,,,,and they served us a piece of cake for our anniversary and sang for us,,,,,,truly fun.
ENTERTAINMENT: A great deal of fun with many options to choose from,,,We saw two shows,,,the Welcome Aboard show and the Fiesta Latina show,,,,,both were good,,,,,although not Broadway quality,,,,but who expected Broadway quality??? We enjoyed both, but we LOVED the comedy shows,,,,,we also ROARED with laughter at the two R rated adult shows and the Love and Marriage (Newlywed/Not so newlywed show). i do suspect the love and Marriage show is a bit rigged though,,,,I am not the first person to say in a review that one of the husbands was a PASTOR,,,,,,hmmmm. But it was obviously fun, and I can personally see how it would be difficult to leave all of it up to chance, and rigging it just a weeeeeee bit made for more fun. I can't prove it,,,,nor do I even want to,,,,,but I think it's likely.
Entertainment on the deck was wonderful,,,I've heard complaints about the entertainment playing only a half hour,,,,simply not true on my cruise,,,he played for hours, and when he took a break, there was pre-recorded music,,,,, The games were great fun to watch,,,,we didn't want to participate, but we truly enjoyed watching them,,,,lounges, bars, etc had wonderful entertainment,,,,,It is simply not possible to be bored.
THE SHIP: oh, where do I start???????? She is BEAUTIFUL!!!!!!! First I have to tell you that i was a travel agent for many years, and I saw this ship in 1996 when she was new,,,,,,,,and she looks as beautiful today, if not more so,,,,,she is CLEAN CLEAN CLEAN,,,,,her drydock must have been extensive. As an ex travel agent, and a front desk worker in a hotel, I LOOKED for issues,,,,,,I have worked in hotels that are going under,,,,I have seen second rate hotels in hotel inspections (more than I care to remember), and while certainly not an expert in cruising, a cruise ship IS very much like a floating resort, so I like to think I have at least SOME knowledge as to what to look for,,,and what is skimped on when things are not going well.
She has no issues,,,,,,,she is gorgeous,,,her carpeting is not worn, torn, or fraying anywhere that I found,,,,,,the towels are thick, fluffy with no wear or tear, clean (pristine actually) and white white white, with plenty left in our room,,,in perfect shape,,,,the toilets are new, no dirt behind them (yes I looked!!!!), the bathroom grout is clean and white, not torn, not stained, not worn,,the bathroom fixtures and mirrors clean and shiny, looked new and were in perfect shape,,,the tile in the public areas is not worn or dull,,,,the oak railings gleamed,,,no rust to be found anywhere,,,the curtains in our cabin were fresh, new, not yellowed on the rubber backings as old curtains are,,,the pool is not stained or dull, and EVERYTHING was in top working order except one of the lobby elevators on embarkation day,,,,which they fixed quickly by the second day,,,,
Honestly, the only sign of wear i saw was in ONE of the elevators,,,,barely noticeable wear above the buttons,,,,,and the mosaic floor in one looked like it needed replacing,,,but when you consider the THOUSANDS of people in and out,,,,well, it's simply not a huge issue.
Because NO vacation is perfect, and because I PROMISED myself that on this vacation, no matter how wow'd I was, I would be fair and balanced, and offer a CRITIQUE (not a criticism) of my PERSONAL experience,,,,,I offer the following while I put my flame retardant suit on,,,,,NONE OF THESE THINGS impacted our vacation negatively in THE LEAST,,,,and to my mind, that these things are SO minor is a testament to how well run Carnival is,,,,,I do not try to be picky here,,I just want to show that I was NOT blind to any small issues and problems,,,,OK??? (Flame retardant suit now buttoned up),,,,
1) Because the computers were down on embarkation day, quite a few people had their S and S cards suspended on the first full day at sea,,,it was somewhat embarrassing to be told your S and S card was suspended while standing at the gift store with your purchase. It was a simple fix, however,,,down to the pursers desk, run the credit card again, and off you go (total wait time 5 minutes),,,,,,,,,,AND Carnival gave EACH of us a 10.00 credit per cabin for our trouble,,,not necessary, but a very nice gesture nonetheless, and certainly a free drink on Carnival's dollar was appreciated. DH, the cheapskate, was impressed,,,,
2) The Maitre'D,,,,,,,,,we have no idea who the dude was,,,,never met him,,,,On the last day, we received an envelope for a tip for him,,,,I willingly put in 10.00, because i felt that if he trained our FANTABULOUS waiters, then he had at least earned THAT,,,,,but he never came to the table, even on the last day, and so he didn't receive it,,,,,his loss, because there was an extra tip in it for him. Neither was anything said to a nearby table that often had drunk, rowdy people who used the F word quite freely and frequently and LOUDLY,,,,maybe I'm wrong, but I think that was HIS job,,, Although it only made us laugh, it MIGHT have bothered someone with small children,,,
3) Drink service in the restaurant,,,,On the first night, no one at our table ordered any wine or drinks (most of us having already had several out on deck) and so he NEVER returned,,,,,we had to chase him down the rest of the cruise,,,,Our waiter was wonderful about it though, going and finding him when we wanted drinks,,,,,,so it certainly wasn't that big of a deal,,,he was noticeably present at the table across from us however, as they purchased many drinks in an evening.
4) It would be AWESOME if Carnival offered dipping sauces for the EXCELLENT chicken fingers at the buffet,,,,they did not (I can't believe I'm down to this!!!!! That's how little was not perfect),,,,If the salad bar was open, you could grab ranch dressing,,,,,,hmmmmm maybe I should have asked??? They might have accommodated :)
5) Room service was nearly perfect, and certainly a fabulous option!!! However,,,,,there was usually some terribly minor, ridiculously silly thing not quite perfect (again, i can't believe i'm down to this),,,,,,Again, not a big deal,,,,my husband received grape jelly instead of strawberry,,,,I got 2 percent instead of whole milk,,,,,,,and we got apple juice instead of orange one morning,,it was 15 minutes late one day,,,I'm sure there were many people ordering that day, as it was usually quite punctual, and I'm CERTAIN it would have been fixed promptly, had we bothered to call,,,we didn't because it was so minor,,,,and it was a bit disappointing to discover that (at least on this ship's menu) they no longer have the cookie and brownie plate,,,,,
Obviously, I'm reaching here, if i'm down to mentioning dipping sauces and grape instead of strawberry jelly!!!!! THAT is how little went wrong!!!!! I think the thing to remember on ANY vacation is that it WON'T be perfect,,,,its not the minor issues that happen that matter,,it's how they are FIXED that matters,,,,and Carnival was stupendous about that,,,,,,,truly stupendous.
So there we sat,,,,,,on the morning of Debarkation,,,,,,wistfully staring at Tampa, and wishing we were getting ON instead of off,,,,,and DH says to me,,,,"Let's plan another,,,this time a 7 day",,,,I looked at him and said ,,,"Well, DH, a 7 day would be a bit more expensive." And DH says,,,,,,(drumroll please)
"I don't care,,,It wasn't expensive at all."
It's a good thing i was sitting down.We now refer to it as the "More bling for Dad's ching thing",,, As for me,,,,,,I've learned that I now have a difficult time sleeping without a chocolate and a towel animal on my bed at night.
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